5 Benefits of Applying Nitrocellulose Lacquer to a Guitar

Strumming on your guitar can be incredibly therapeutic, allowing you to enjoy music and relaxation simultaneously. Whether playing for yourself, entertaining family or friends, or even playing in front of a crowd, mastering the guitar can elevate your skill set! To play the guitar with skill and visual appeal, however, you might need the help of a friend of many other instruments — nitrocellulose lacquer. 

Nitrocellulose lacquer, often called “nitro lacquer,” is a type of finish or coating widely used in various industries, including manufacturing musical instruments, especially guitars. It is a solvent-based lacquer made from nitrocellulose, a highly flammable and fast-drying compound, and often a combination of other resins, solvents, and additives.

Nitrocellulose lacquer is known for its exceptional qualities, including its ability to create a glossy, thin, and durable finish. Allow us to explain several benefits of using this product on your guitar so you can elevate its aesthetic quality.

Here are the benefits of applying nitrocellulose lacquer to your guitar!

Benefit #1: The overall look

One of the main reasons for the application of nitrocellulose lacquer on your guitar would be to, as mentioned earlier, enhance your instrument’s overall aesthetic appeal.

Nitrocellulose lacquer has a remarkable ability to create a deep, lustrous sheen on the guitar’s surface. Unlike other finishing options, which can appear thick and glossy, nitrocellulose lacquer creates a thin, breathable layer that allows the wood’s natural beauty to shine through.

Additionally, when applied to a guitar’s body, the lacquer allows the unique grain patterns of the wood to become more pronounced. It also works to create a vintage and timeless aesthetic, which is a characteristic desirable among musicians and collectors.

Benefit #2: Better sound

Another advantage of applying nitrocellulose lacquer to your guitar is that it allows your guitar to produce a better sound than if you use another finishing option or none at all.

One of the most significant acoustic benefits of nitrocellulose lacquer is its thin and breathable nature. This thinness allows the wood of the guitar to “breathe.” In other words, it doesn’t stifle or dampen the natural vibrations of the wood. A guitar’s sound is created by the vibrations of its top, back, and sides. These vibrations are a product of the strings’ energy transfer to the guitar’s body.

Nitrocellulose lacquer, being exceptionally thin, allows these vibrations to pass through the finish and into the wood more effectively. By allowing the guitar wood’s natural characteristics to shine through, nitrocellulose lacquer contributes to a richer, broader, and even louder set of tones.

Benefit #3: Easier to repair

Using nitrocellulose lacquer on your guitar will even make it easier to repair. One of the downfalls of this product is that any damages done to the guitar are more visible.

However, when a guitar with a nitrocellulose finish incurs minor damage, such as small dings, scratches, or areas where the finish has worn off, luthiers and guitar technicians can often address these issues with simple touch-up techniques. This involves applying a small amount of fresh lacquer to the damaged area, allowing it to dry and then carefully buffing and polishing it to blend seamlessly with the surrounding finish.

This process can restore the guitar’s appearance and protect the wood underneath. Nitrocellulose lacquer also can blend well with existing lacquer layers, which is crucial when repairing damaged areas. The new lacquer adheres to the old finish and merges seamlessly, ensuring the repaired section doesn’t stand out visibly. This attribute makes it easier to maintain the overall appearance of the instrument, thereby preserving its aesthetic value!

Benefit #4: Easier to dye

If you are interested in dyeing or tinting your guitar, nitrocellulose lacquer can help ease this process, too! Nitrocellulose lacquer is adept at absorbing and retaining dye or tint, resulting in deeper and more vibrant colours. This is due to its porous nature and thin application.

When dye is applied to the surface, it can penetrate the lacquer and bond with the wood underneath, creating rich and resonant colours that are otherwise quite difficult to achieve with other finishes. Furthermore, it allows for the blending of colours and tints, creating smooth transitions and gradients on the guitar’s surface.

Benefit #5: Improved ageing

When nitrocellulose lacquer is applied to a guitar, it increases its aging capabilities. This natural aging process is highly valued by both musicians and collectors, contributing to the guitar’s uniqueness and enhancing its overall appeal.

As we have already discussed, this finish is particularly thin and breathable, which makes it slightly more prone to damage, such as small cracks and scratches. The great thing about this is that it does not need to be seen as a negative aspect of the product!

These cracks and scratches create a textured, vintage appearance that many guitar enthusiasts find visually appealing, providing a visual timeline of its history!

  • Gretchen is a free-spirited blogger focused on ways to improve her spiritual and emotional health. She uses the MANDALA HEALS blog to dispense advice, tutorials & guides on various topics.

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